Poland's national grid can be powered by nuclear energy from ORLEN

PKN ORLEN is at an advanced stage of preparation for the implementation of the small modular reactor (SMR) technology. The Company has exclusive rights to use GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s BWRX-300 in Poland. The BWRX-300 reactor is currently the world’s most advanced technology on its way to commercialisation. ORLEN Synthos Green Energy has already applied to the National Atomic Energy Agency for assessment of the SMR technology.

“Ensuring stable energy supplies to the Polish system requires rapid implementation of nuclear technologies. To make sure this process is successful, we need to rely on proven technologies, and BWRX, for which we have exclusive rights, is exactly that. It offers the highest thermal efficiency. Another fact of key importance is that we have acquired a partner that has extensive experience in implementing the nuclear technology and can be a global leader in the development of SMR. In this way, PKN ORLEN is providing viable solutions for increasing the energy independence of our economy. We do not limit our activities to satisfying our own needs, and we want to build nuclear reactors in locations important for the continuity of energy supply to the national grid,” says Daniel Obajtek, President of the PKN ORLEN Management Board.

The micro modular reactor (MMR) and small modular reactor (SMR) technologies are being commercialised by ORLEN Synthos Green Energy. The company has applied to the President of the National Atomic Energy Agency in Poland for a general opinion on BWRX-300. The technical dossier is based on documentation prepared by the technology supplier for the Canadian regulator CNRC as part of the Vendor Design Review (VDR), i.e. a pre-license technology review carried out in accordance with the Canadian law.

The ORLEN Group is ideally positioned to commercialise modular reactors in Poland: it has access to a vast array of potential deployment sites, a long track record of implementing major capital projects and extensive experience in the deployment of cutting-edge energy generation technologies. The cooperation with Synthos Green Energy and the selection of BWRX-300 reactors will enable faster and smoother implementation of the nuclear technology at the Group. Breaking ground in this context was a decision by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), one of Canada’s largest power companies, which is set to commence construction of a BWRX-300 reactor in 2022. OPG’s choice of the BWRX-300 technology is also a major catalyst for projects deployed in Poland, because it means the first project in Poland will be a NOAK (Next of a Kind) implementation, with the FOAK (First of a Kind) project deployed in Canada as its reference design. Thus, the projects in Poland will build on Canadian experience in the development, investment process preparation, licensing, construction and operation of a nuclear power plant of the same type.

Small nuclear reactors are an opportunity for Poland’s economy. GE Hitachi estimates that some 50% of the reactor construction expenditure could be incurred in Poland, including funds spent on key plant components such as the turbine and generator, parts of the reactor vessel, and hydraulic systems. This would create new jobs in attractive sectors of the economy. Almost 300 Polish firms have been identified so far that have the potential to become suppliers in the reactor construction supply chain.

In line with its strategy and ambitions to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the ORLEN Group invests in low- and zero-carbon, stable and innovative power generation capacities. A small nuclear reactor with a capacity of ca. 300 MWe is capable of generating sufficient energy to power a city with a population of about 150,000, the size of Zielona Góra. The estimated generation costs per MWh of electricity will ultimately be about 30% lower compared with gas-fired generating sources. What is equally important, a single modular reactor of about 300 MWe can reduce emissions by some 0.3 to 2.0 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, depending on the type of fuel being replaced (for example, hard coal or lignite).

Modular nuclear reactors offer the highest safety standards. The BWRX-300 has passive safety systems that initiate cooling procedures without human intervention and keep it cool for up to seven days. This feature ensures safer operation and a much more flexible approach to reactor siting, enabling reactors to be located, for example, near certain industrial plants. Less than 5 ha is needed to build a small reactor, which means the National Stadium in Warsaw could accommodate as many as four of them.